Surprise Packages

SrA Darrell Barnes, a 2011 El Campo High School graduate (center) was surprised to learn the packages of goodies he and his buddies recieved were from El Campo, which he considers his hometown even though he grew up in Glen Flora and the surrounding community such as Louise. He was especially moved by the personal cards made by elementary students from Louise and El Campo ISD. Pictured are (l-r) TSgt Zacharie Castro, Ssgt Matthew Snyder, Barnes, Sra Azukaego Okei-Nwaoboukei and Tsgt Montrell Bryant. Barnes was surprised to receive the gifts and cards, it made him feel like he had a little piece of home with him. The star at right was from a flag that had flown over the Louise ISD campus.

Darrell Barnes, who is currently stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, and his unit received several care packages from his hometown recently.

As part of the GI Joe/Jane project in El Campo, Barnes was excited to learn the items were from people back home.

“They (fellow soldiers) were already opening them and I was just curious to see where they came from,” Barnes said. “(I) took a look at the package and saw it was from good ‘ole EC Texas. It was humbling. Then seeing what the kids put into it. The pictures, the notes, the cards they were all beyond heartwarming. It made me feel like I had another little piece of home with me.”

Al Dhafra Air Base, a military installation in the United Arab Emirates, is located approximately 20 miles south of Abu Dhabi.

Packages included handmade cards from elementary students from Louise and El Campo ISD. They also included candy, hygiene items, magazines, stars from a flag and drink koozies.

Also, inside the package was a star cut from a flag that had flown over the elementary campus at Louise ISD.

“I am a maintenance operation controller for KC10’s,” Barnes said. “I coordinate with command post and other AMU’s, airframes C130’s, f15’s, f16’s, to generate and record sorties. I help generate and record missions and maintenance done to the airframe while on the ground.”

According to Connie Schertz, a mortgage specialist at Prosperity Bank in El Campo, the local GI Joe/Jane project was responsible for sending more than 40 packages filled with items and cards to military personnel, some of whose names were submitted to Schertz, and to others with Air/Army Post Office (APO) addresses.

“Items were shipped the first of the month (December),” Schertz said.

The GI Joe/Jane project, which was organized by Schertz 11 years ago, receives donations from not only El Campo residents, but from other in the surrounding area.

“The project is unique,” she said. “I started the program with sponsors in 2009 and have continued for 12 seasons.”

GI Joe/Jane is also taking place in other towns where there are Prosperity Bank locations.

Barnes is a 2011 graduate of El Campo High School and grew up in Glen Flora. He joined the Air Force in 2016. He is the son of Rhonda and Darrell Barnes of Glen Flora and Te’koya Dixon of Houston.

“Getting these packages felt as good as a Friday night under the lights,” he said. “You never know who you’re going to reach out and touch. From 8,000 miles away, Merry Christmas! It’s nice to feel like what you’re doing is appreciated.”

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